“Why is my tire pressure light on? Are my tires flat? Do I need to pull over? How much is this gonna cost me?”

All valid questions when you notice that amber light on the dash pop on. Your tire pressure light is there to notify you that something may be a little off regarding your tire pressure. But no need to worry. Fortunately, in most cases it isn’t a “pull over to the side of the road, call for help, and start pricing out new tires” kind of alert. Your vehicle’s tire-pressure monitoring system light (or “TPMS light”) is typically shaped somewhat like a flat tire (circle or semi-circle with a flat side on the bottom). Generally, you’ll see an exclamation point or the letters “TPMS” inside the shape as well.

What Does My TPMS Light Mean?

When your TPMS light is illuminated, it simply means there is something not entirely right about the air pressure in one or more of your tires. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your tire is completely flat, damaged, or beyond repair. It simply means that you ought to investigate further and, if necessary, contact a professional tire technician if the situation requires it.

But before you can properly diagnose the issue, you’ll want to pay attention to how and when the TPMS light comes on. For instance

If Your TPMS Light Stays On

If your TPMS light stays on basically all the time, it’s typically a sign that one or more tires are low on air. Using a tire gauge, check each tire to ensure that each is inflated to its suggested PSI. If one or more is low, use an air compressor to inflate until the PSI is where it needs to be. Once this is complete, the light should go off.

TPMS Light Comes On and Goes Back Off

If your TPMS light comes on when you first start the vehicle then goes off a few minutes later, the culprit may be nothing more than fluctuating temperatures outside. It is normal for cold temperatures to influence your tire pressure. Once the light goes back off, it’s safe to assume that the heat generated from the moving vehicle or a change in the weather has brought your tire pressure back up to where it should be.

TPMS Light Flashes and Stays On

If your TPMS light flashes for a minute or two when you start your vehicle and stays on, it might not have anything to do with your tires at all. This is a sign that something is wrong with the tire-pressure monitoring system itself and is thus unable to accurately warn you of low tire pressure. It won’t hurt to check your tire pressure just in case but fixing your TPMS is a task best left to the professionals.

How to Get Your Tire Pressure Light to Turn Off

If your TPMS light indicates that one or more tires are low on air, and cold weather isn’t a factor, simply use a tire gauge to identify the low tire(s) and use an air compressor to inflate to the recommended PSI. Ideally, this will fix the problem for the foreseeable future. However, if your light comes back on later in the day or the next morning, and the same tire is at fault, it’s a good indication that your tire is slowly leaking. If this is the case, you’ll want to fill it up so you can drive safely to a trusted tire technician and have them investigate further. Oftentimes small holes or leaks can be patched, but if your tire is beyond repair, your tire technician will be able to help you find an adequate replacement at a fair cost.

Conclusion

Like any indicator light on your dashboard, your TPMS light is there to keep your vehicle safe and to alert you when something is off. Your TPMS light should not be an immediate cause for panic, but rather attentiveness. And it is something that will require some degree of timely action on your part. Hopefully fixing the issue amounts to nothing more than a trip to a gas station air compressor, but if your tire does need repaired or replaced, you’ll want to consult with your trusted tire professional for the best service. And next time you wonder “why is my tire pressure light on”, you’ll be better equipped to get it fixed quickly.